by Mike Antoniak
The digital camera business is beginning to look more like the
traditional camera business for retailers who sell the cameras or
provide the print from digital services, which can lure customers
back into stores.
"You have to have accessories for these cameras because that's where you are going to make the money," offers Mike Rausch, owner of Colonial Photo and Hobby, Orlando, FL. The store backs its digital camera sales with a range of photofinishing and digital services.
At the five-store Huron Camera chain based in Dexter, MI, general manager Steve Hutchinson considers the add-on sales a primary source of profits from the digital hardware. "In a way, selling digital cameras is worse than it was with the SLR," he acknowledges. "This is the digital age, and we're now competing with mail order as well as people selling cameras online. There's not much you can make on the camera, so you've got to look for ways to sell some accessories to go with it."
Digital Film An Easy Sale
Leading those opportunities are flash media, the digital cards which play the role of film in digital cameras. Add-on sales begin as soon as the digital camera is out of the box. "Most, if not all, digital cameras come with a low capacity memory card," notes Alan Parry, marketing director for Delkin Devices. "With today's newest higher megapixel cameras, that card may only be large enough to hold two or three pictures."
Alerting the camera buyer to this can translate into a more profitable sale. "Once you show the customer how few images the card which is included with the camera can hold, they understand they are going to need at least one more card," notes Rausch.
Mark Lewis, retail accounts manager for SanDisk, one of the suppliers of digital media for cameras, estimates as many as 70 percent of digital camera buyers also purchase an additional card when they buy their camera. "A large number of cards are sold with the camera, but other people come back to the store later for a card, or an additional card," he adds.
Because there is no universal standard in flash media for digital cameras, those who want the aftermarket sales must offer a representative sampling of something for everyone: Compact Flash, SmartMedia, Secure Digital(SD)/Multi Media, and Memory Stick Cards. To date, most sales have been concentrated in Compact Flash, but the SD format seems poised to become a more important aftermarket item.
"We've sold more Minolta Dimage X cameras lately than any other model," says Hutchinson of the camera, which uses the SD card. "It's a small camera with the features most people need, and our people who sell cameras have been very enthusiastic about it."
Lewis also points to trend in new products which suggests retailers may want to stock up on the format. "Compact Flash still dominates but SD cards are coming on strong," he shares. "We see a large number of SD cameras coming out in the months ahead."
As far as card capacity goes, there's been a shift across the board to higher capacity cards. Everyone contacted indicates cards with a storage capacity of 64MB or better now dominate sales, in every format. "The 64MB and 128MB capacity cards are the high sellers," says Parry. "If you're going to be in this market, those are the capacities you need to offer."
Hutchinson reports movement in higher capacity cards: "We've been selling quite a few 192MB Compact Flash cards lately. People who are buying the four and five megapixel cameras are discovering they need those cards."
Making them visible in the store, and talking them up can be critical to sales of camera cards, especially in a photofinishing environment. Although many buy their first card with the camera, they often discover a need for a second or third card to have as a back-up. If they are reminded of that need when they come in or pick up their prints, they may respond by buying.
Opportunities are not limited to the film cards alone. "The other big area for add-on sales is in the card readers," notes Lewis. "But most people aren't aware of the need for a card reader until the retailer tells them about it."
"A lot of buyers come into the store knowing they want a digital camera, but totally in the dark about what they need," reports Rausch. By taking the time to qualify the customer, and explain how a range of other accessories will enhance the enjoyment of digital imaging, the store is able to sell more and sweeten profits.